Last Friday, my sister and I watched Real Steel. At first, I wasn’t really keen on watching it because I’ve “heard” and glimpsed mixed reviews for the film. But because I do love watching movies, I gave it a chance. And good thing I did too. I like the movie. Very much.
Oh, and I’m gonna talk about some (okay a lot of) spoilers, so you’ve been warned.
Real Steel might sound like it’s some sort of rip off of Rocky (in a metallic sense), it is much more than that. A lot more than it, actually. Set in the near future where the sports of boxing has taken on a different path – robots fighting against robots – we are introduced right away to our main man, Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), who is a former boxer and struggling robot boxing promoter, and his robot Ambush. In the movie’s first boxing bout at a small town carnival, Ambush faces off with a thousand pounder bull. Charlie’s over confidence and lack of caution becomes his and Ambush’s downfall. Faced with having to pay a huge amount to the carnival’s promoter (owing to his reckless bet), Charlie finds himself being followed by two fellows. Panicking, he punches one guy without provocation only to find out that the two men are not out to collect the money but are there to inform him that his ex-girlfriend and mother of his son has passed away.
The next scene, we find Charlie headed to the courthouse where a hearing is taking placed to discuss custody of his son. At the courtroom, Debra, the sister of Charlie’s ex-girlfriend and her rich husband want to adopt 11-year old Max Kenton. Charlie’s just dandy about it but when he realizes that the husband, Marvin, has a lot of dough, he comes up with a not-so-honest way of making money. Stepping out and pretending his consulting with someone over the phone, he waits to ambush Marvin and makes his offer – 100,000 for Max. Wow! Talk about desperation! Marvin appears shocked and maybe just disgusted but Charlie sweet-talks him into agreeing. Marvin offers half the money while he and Debra go off on a vacation out of the country and promises the other half when they get. Marvin agrees to give the money to Charlie when he drops off Max at the Tallet’s Gym. The gym belongs to an old flame, Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), who’s also the daughter of Charlie’s former coach and trainer.
Having secured his money, Charlie gives the A-ok to buy a new robot and have it delivered to the same gym. At the same
time, Marvin and Debra arrive with Max (Dakota Goyo). We see a face-off between Charlie and Max. Debra joins the duo pestering Charlie because there’s a creepy guy hanging out near her gym who’s actually the seller of the robot. Charlie gives her the money to close the deal but Max realizes it was payment from Marvin. Max demands half the money for “selling him”. Of course, Charlie refuses and the face-off ends when Charlie just gives up on his argument with Max and head inside the gym in order to take a look at his new toy.
I won’t bother telling the rest of story here. I’ll just direct you to the site where there’ll be more spoilers. I’ll just go ahead and jump to the part where, during a rainy night, Charlie and Max are sneaking around a junk yard with a hand-pulled trailer trying to find pieces to build a new robot. New robot? What happened to Noisy Boy? Well… care to guess?
Anyway, Max isn’t happy about Charlie, obviously. While Charlie is off looking for more stuff to steal, he tells off Max for standing too close to a cliff. Of course, the ground beneath Max crumbles and he’s careening down a slippery slope. It would have been the end of him he his clothes didn’t get caught on an outstretched inanimate hand of a robot buried in the mud. Charlie pulls Max to safety tells him and we see a tender moment when Charlie was trying to calm Max down. Afterwards, Charlie says they were leaving. Max refuses, saying the robot saved him and he wants to unearth it and bring it back with him. At the end of his patience, Charlie tells his son that he won’t help and leaves him while Max begins to dig the robot out of the mud.
The next morning Max tugs the trailer, carrying the robot back towards Charlie’s truck. When the boy reaches his dad, he (understandably) gives Charlie a couple of punches for having left him alone down below to work on digging out the robot. When I get a copy of this movie, I’m going to watch this particular scene again and again. It’s just cute!
Turns out, this old robot, Atom, isn’t just a loser after all. At first, Charlie didn’t want to keep Atom and wanted to buy another robot to replace Noisy Boy but having no luck for a sponsor, he’s forced to deal with Max’s insistence. After winning in an underground fight, Max becomes more and more convinced that Atom is the answer to their money problems. Atom, with Max’s dedication and persistence and with Charlie’s training, goes on to win many fights. Max and Charlie actually agreed to a deal – after Charlie witnesses Max teaching Atom how to dance (with his “shadow-mode” feature) – to work on the robot together. Max also gives him Noisy Boy’s voice-command feature and maintains his circuitry.
Atom slowly rises in popularity, winning more and more barroom and parking lot fights, finally scoring a place in the Professional Boxing League. The rest, as they say is history. But the ending is better than you would’ve expected. You’ll see.
I’ll quote a portion of a review from a user over at IMDB: “There are very few movies made which can cater to the likes of each individual movie goer, but then there are the occasional ones like ‘real steel’ that qualify for such prizes. It’s a brilliant plot, yet not sketchy and achy as the transformers, not too much into the future to rattle your brains. It’s a perfect blend of all sort of emotions while giving the cinema goer the daily dose of excitement.” I have to agree.
So… what rating to give this movie? Hmm… I’d like to give it a five in my book, but that’s just too much. I feel like it’s hovering between 4 and 4.5, I guess. Maybe a solid four! There! Definitely at least four from me.
- Real Steel: My Fair Robot (anofs.wordpress.com)
- Atom – Max – Charlie Rocks!! (pinashpinash.wordpress.com)
- The makers of Real Steel explain why robot boxing really is the future! [Real Steel] (io9.com)